Senior Morgan Matalin (Crown Point, Ind./Crown Point) made sure that the Valpo softball team would leave the state of Florida on a high note Sunday morning, blasting a walk-off homer in the bottom of the eighth inning to give Valpo a 7-5 victory over Cleveland State. The Brown and Gold were in position for the potential walk-off win thanks to a clutch game-tying double in the seventh inning from junior Kelsie Packard (Beloit, Wis./Turner [Rock Valley]).
How It Happened
- Cleveland State took the lead three batters into Sunday’s game, as a hit by pitch, a sacrifice bunt and a single combined to push the initial run across.
- The Vikings added two runs to their lead in the top of the third thanks to a leadoff homer and an RBI double later in the frame.
- Valpo evened the game up at 3-3 in the bottom of the third. Sophomore Peyton Moeder (Shawnee, Kan./Mill Valley) lined a shot off the CSU third baseman for a leadoff single, and fellow sophomore Jaina Westphal (Waterford, Wis./Burlington) beat out a bunt for a single of her own to put two runners on base.
- Sophomore Taylor Tonoian (Saugus, Calif./Saugus) stepped in and drilled a three-run homer to center field, her first career round-tripper tying the game at three apiece.
- A two-out run-scoring single briefly gave the Vikings the lead back in the top of the fourth, but Valpo tied the game again in the bottom of the frame. The Brown and Gold loaded the bases with one out, and then a pop-up behind short from Tonoian dropped untouched. The CSU shortstop recovered in time to force the Valpo runner from second at third, but Matalin scampered home from third to tie the game at 4-4.
- Cleveland State claimed the lead for the third time in the game with a single run in the sixth, as a leadoff walk came around to score on a double and a subsequent Valpo error.
- The game headed into the bottom of the seventh with Valpo still trailing 5-4, but Tonoian gave Valpo hope with a leadoff double. Two batters later, Packard lined a double of her own to the left-center gap to plate Tonoian and tie the game.
- Extra innings awaited Valpo for the third time on the weekend, and again the international tiebreak was implemented in the eighth inning. Freshman Easton Seib (Blue Springs, Mo./Blue Springs South) got two outs in the air to keep the CSU runner at second, and Packard then entered in relief and induced a groundout to keep the Vikings off the board.
- That set the stage for Matalin’s heroics, as the senior connected on the walk-off homer with one out and the runner on second to send Valpo home 7-5 victors.
Inside the Game
- Matalin also owned Valpo’s last walk-off homer, as she recorded the game-winning blast as a freshman on Senior Day at the Valpo Softball Complex against Wright State for a 4-3 win in May 2017.
- Ironically, Matalin’s last walk-off homer also came in the bottom of the eighth inning and was preceded by a game-tying double in the bottom of the seventh.
- Tonoian became the second Valpo player to connect on her first career homer in as many days, as Packard went yard for the first time on Saturday as well.
- Valpo has hit five home runs in its last three games after going deep just five times in its first 16 contests.
- Matalin, Packard and Tonoian all picked up two hits apiece to lead the way on Sunday. Tonoian drove in four runs, while Packard connected on the first two doubles of her career and also drew a walk as well.
- Moeder reached base twice on a hit and a walk and stole her 11th base in 12 attempts this year.
- Senior Jenna Edwards (Winchester, Ky./George Rogers Clark [Chattanooga State C.C.]) started in the circle and threw 3.2 innings, striking out six.
- Seib entered in relief in the fourth inning and threw four innings of three-hit ball, surrendering just one unearned run. Packard faced the one batter in the eighth to make sure the Vikings did not plate their international tiebreak runner and earned the victory with her one-out effort, improving to 4-4 this year.
Valpo (9-10) starts out MVC play this coming weekend at Missouri State. The three-game series opens with a doubleheader Saturday, March 14, with first pitch of game one slated for noon.